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Tomorrow's Lesson, by Samuel Hawkins
By SAMUEL HAWKINS

Chapter 6: Too Young to Die

At that moment, it was impossible to be a Legionnaire and not despair.  Even in later days, when the Legion would truly live up to its name, the mere mention of Mordru would be enough to chill the mightiest of its number.  Yet this was a far different Legion than the one that would some day spawn legends lasting millennia.  This was a new Legion, still maturing, still learning to work as a team, still without that perfect mix of sheer power and exotic abilities that would serve to meet almost any challenge.

This was a Legion in way over its head.

For a moment, no one moved.  There seemed to be little point. 

"If Mordru could do that to Superboy … " thought Invisible Kid.

"We’re just kids.  What were we thinking?" thought Lightning Lad.

"I’m too young to die," thought Sun Boy.

"If I can go microscopic, he might not notice me," thought both Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy.

"Sh’ma Yisroel," thought Colossal Boy.

"We’re done," thought Saturn Girl, summing up for the rest. 

And they were.  By all rights, it should have ended that day.  There should have been nothing to stand against Mordru in his march to galactic domination and beyond.  No more legends, save whatever tales the Dark Lord might mandate be told of him.  Nothing left but a corrosive darkness that would choke the galaxy until nothing was left that was not pleasing to Mordru.

And end it would have, if not for one small detail. 

To choose its first leader, the three original Legionnaires had used a computer.

They, and it, had chosen well.


Out of the chaos of inevitable doom, one voice sounded with a strength that defied the reality of the situation.  "Brainy!" Cosmic Boy barked, "Force field on Superboy.  Phantom Girl!  Colossal Boy!  Cham!  Distract him.  Everyone, get ready to head for the Cruiser!" 

Despite their fear, the sound of their leader’s voice snapped the young heroes into action.  Brainiac 5 projected his force field to both shield and grasp the unconscious Boy of Steel.  The intangibleness that was Phantom Girl floated aloft.  Chameleon Boy was suddenly a dead ringer for the living lasers of Kathoon.  Colossal Boy underwent a growth spurt. 

For a long and tenuous moment, all that stood between the Legion and total annihilation was this set of merely visual distractions.   

Then Cosmic Boy screamed, "Now!  Lightning Lad!  Sun Boy!  It’s up to you!  Pour it on Mordru!  Go for his eyes!  Blind him!  Everyone else!  Move!" 

As the Legion scattered, the air around Mordru began to hum, suddenly alive with a swarm of electrons.  Then it melted, as the addition of Sun Boy’s full power to Lightning Lad’s created a level of molecular activity rarely seen outside a star.  Mordru roared with anger as he was stung, half-blinded, and disoriented by the all-out attack.  The Legionnaires ran for their lives, fleeing as much from the miniature hell created by their teammates as from its target. 

In actuality, the buzz meant little to that target.  He was, after all, Mordru. 

But sometimes, a little is enough.  So it was now. 

By the time he had restored both his vision and his orientation, the Legionnaires were nowhere to be seen.  Roaring with anger, the master of a millennium of magic began to give chase. 

Before, eliminating them had been a perfunctory chore.  Now, it would be a treat.  To repay the sting of their pitiful effort, he would roast the flesh from their puny bones.

Then he stopped.  "Let them run a while," he thought.  He wasn’t quite sure why he’d thought that, but it seemed to be a good idea.  "Yes, let the prey run about a bit.  The kill will be that much sweeter." 

From a distance, Mordru felt the Legion Cruiser tear away from the moon.  Another surge of anger swelled through the Dark Lord, but again, he found himself holding off pursuit.  He paused and shook his head.  "I’ll let them live," he at last resolved, "for a few moments more."

In the Legion Cruiser, the stillness resembled that of the space outside.  No one spoke.  The only sounds came from the groan of the engines on full power, the crisp movements of Lightning Lad as he gamely piloted the already damaged vessel, intermittent hushed sobs from some of the Legionnaires, and an occasional grunt from Brainiac 5 as he examined his illustrious and unconscious patient.

An awakening Superboy broke the uneasy quiet.  "Great Rao!" he shouted in the ancient language of his infancy.  Every head on the ship turned towards him.  "Stop!  Stop!" the boy cried so loudly that several of the Legionnaires covered their ears.  "Stop!"

"Superboy! Wake up!"  Saturn Girl said mentally as she hurried to his side.  "We’re on the Cruiser," she explained vocally as she watched his eyes flutter open.  "We’re safe.  For the moment."

Superboy looked up, and for a moment it seemed that he did not recognize her.  Then he said, "More … more powerful."

"What?" Saturn Girl and Brainiac 5 asked in unison.

The young Kryptonian’s lip trembled as he tried to speak.  "More … powerful.  Mordru was … more powerful than me.  I … I never met anyone … more powerful than me.  I … oh God … I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t stop him.  Oh, God … he was so strong.  I hit him … and he didn’t stop coming.  Oh God!"

Saturn Girl almost used her telepathy to calm him, but decided a more human touch might work best.  Touching his shoulder, she said, "It’s okay.  We’re away from him."

"Pa always warned me," Superboy continued, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the others.  "’Son, you just never know what’s out there.  You’re awful strong, but there could always be something stronger,’ he’d say.  But I didn’t quite believe it."  None of the Legionnaires could mistake the fear soaking his voice.  "I guess I do now.  I … I just couldn’t stop him."

He was quiet for a moment, then, as if fully realizing what had occurred, the Last Son of Krypton spoke words he’d never believed would pass his lips. 

"He beat me."

 


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TOMORROW'S LESSON Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved.  This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics.   Superboy, Clark Kent, Martha Kent, Jonathan Kent, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Chameleon Boy, Triplicate Girl, Brainiac 5, Sun Boy, Phantom Girl, Colossal Boy, Shrinking Violet, Bouncing Boy, Invisible Kid, Mordru the Merciless, Smallville, Metropolis, & Krypton are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.


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